The question of curiosity

Is Rahul Gandhi really out of PM race?

VIEWPOINT

ANIL ANAND

The General Elections are still at a distance and from all available indications there seems only a remote possibility of preponing the ‘Mahayagna’ of the world’s biggest democracy. Yet, the scene is ripe with discussions, more of speculative nature, on the possibility of the Prime Ministerial candidates which the political arch-rivals the Congress and the BJP could project. The very idea of a Third Front is non-existent and does not seem to have any chance of re-emergence at least in the near future.
More than the BJP’s Hindutava icon and Gujarat Chief Minister Mr Narendra Modi, who is pulling all stops to be in the reckoning as his party’s Prime Ministerial hopeful, every move of the Nehru-Gandhi family scion Mr Rahul Gandhi is being closely observed and every word spoken by him is being scrutinised from various angels about his willingness and suitability for the top job of the country.
No one was amused when he recently declared his intention of not getting married though the reason offered by him was interesting but debatable. But his next observation that he does not want to become Prime Minister as it is better to remain detached from power is not only astonishing but is equally bemusing.
Can Mr Gandhi’s statement on this count be taken on face value? One is afraid, the answer is no. So what prompted him to express his views on such important topics during an hour long impromptu chat with a large group of MPs and journalists in the Central Hall of Parliament the other day?
It will be naive to describe such important observations as an out of the cuff remark. Whether Mr Gandhi offers himself for the Prime Minister’s post or not is a different issue. But his attempts to think out-of-the box are laudatory. He may be lacking in dynamism, as some political pundits and political rivals will like the world to believe, but he has shown sparks of courage at times by commenting on the prevalent hackneyed Congress culture and the high and mighty ruling the roost in the party for decades together.
Mr Gandhi’s comment that he does not intend to become Prime Minister, for whatever reasons, has led to an immediate speculation as to who would be the Congress’s next Prime Ministerial candidate. Does it open a small window of a chance for either Dr Manmohan Singh to have a third term in case of the UPA retaining power at the Centre or someone like him stepping into his shoes in the event of Dr Singh deciding to hang his shoes?
There is already a debate in Delhi’s power circles on the subject though it is totally hypothetical in nature. Who will be Mr Rahul Gandhi’s nominee, if he opts out of the Prime Ministerial race? Will he follow the pattern set by his illustrious mother Mrs Sonia Gandhi who had nominated Dr Singh for the top post after she declined to take up the responsibility in view the tirade launched by the BJP-led opposition on account of her Italian birth?
There are no easy answers to these questions. But at the same time it will be a foolhardy to count Mr Gandhi out of the Prime Ministerial race. Whether he takes a shot at the top spot if the Congress-led UPA returns to power in 2014 or not, is a different question. But for all practical purposes he is the Congress’ Prime Ministerial candidate for future.
At a time when Mr Modi and his supporters, both inside the BJP and in other sections of the society including media, are shouting from the roof-tops fancying his chances as the party’s future Prime Minister, Mr Gandhi giving an impression of opting out of the race makes a political sense. It is a deft move to stay clear of the Modi vs Rahul Gandhi scenario which many wish to paint for the next General Elections.
Mr Gandhi may stay out of the race for the time being but he will have to ultimately take a call given the Congress’ internal dynamics. Well, there is a silver-lining in his thinking and a whiff of fresh air if he dares to think of not imposing himself as a scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family and instead rises through the grind.
Mrs Gandhi was able to divert sharp attacks on account of her being a person of foreign origin. May be her son follows the pattern in a limited way to blunt attacks on the grounds of his dynasty, birth-based privilege and the bestowed right to rule the Congress and ultimately the country?
The circumstances in 2014 will be entirely different than 2004. Even there is a clear cut distinction between the developments leading to stiff opposition to Mrs Gandhi becoming Prime Minister and the case of her son. Nevertheless, the jury is already out on the possible successor to Dr Manmohan Singh in case Mr Gandhi decides to opt out of the race.
 With Mr Pranab Mukherjee moving on to the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the focus is on the UPA’s star performer and Finance Mr P Chidambaram. Like Dr Singh, he is not a mass leader. So poses no threat to the Congress’ first family on the political front. But his no-nonsense approach makes him a tough customer to be handled by anyone.
Rahul’s PM wish-list, if any, will be incomplete without his perceived guide, and political Mr Digvijaya Singh. He is a hardcore political leader from the plains of central India and is a past master in the art of practicing politics. That could prove to be his undoing also.  The two time chief minister of MP is a veteran Hindi heartland politician, a “hard secularist”, who believes that taking on the Hindutva opposition frontally and on every occasion, is the best way to fight the Congress battle. But thinking has already landed him and the Congress in deep trouble.
Could there be another technocrat like Dr Singh, waiting in the wings to be anointed as the Congress Prime Minister? Only time will time that too only if Mr Gandhi really decides to opt out of the race.

Lastupdate on : Tue, 12 Mar 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 12 Mar 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 13 Mar 2013 00:00:00 IST




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